Hot as Sin Page 22

April had seemed utterly enraptured by her new home, almost as if she’d been brainwashed into believing that living like a wild animal was a good thing.

“She told me they get to live on their own terms. And that it’s really exclusive and an honor to be allowed to live there. I just know that place has something to do with what’s happened to her.”

Sam held up his hands as if to try to slow her down.

“I know you’re worried about your sister, but from everything you’ve told me she isn’t exactly Little Miss Perfect, is she? Could this phone call be just another bump in the road for her? A prank to see how high she can make you jump?”

She couldn’t stop herself from going to April’s defense. “She’s had a hard life. She’s still figuring things out.”

“You had it rough, too. But you always knew what you wanted. Always kept yourself on track and found a way to achieve your goals.”

Sorrow came at her. Did he even realize that she’d gone completely off track ten years ago? Didn’t he realize that apart from her sister and mother, he was the only person whose love she really wanted? And that losing him was a big enough failure to trump all of her later successes?

“You’re absolutely positive that April isn’t just messing with you? Trying to get your attention. Trying to get you to prove your love.”

“No.”

She shook her head hard and immediately felt dizzy. Sam was at her side in an instant, his hands on her shoulders, pushing her back into the pillows.

“You need to take it easy.”

But they both knew she couldn’t. Not when her baby sister needed her.

He was sitting so close that she could breathe in the fresh scent of his bath soap, reminiscent of dry pine needles in a warm and sunny forest. It would be so easy to fall into his arms, to press her lips against the pulse beating strong and steady on his neck.

Despite her intense longing, she still couldn’t forget how badly he’d hurt her. Those painful memories gave her enough self-control to shift away from him on the bed.

“April wouldn’t do something that horrible to me,” she told him again, knowing that even though April wasn’t the easiest person to love, she wasn’t evil.

“That may be the case,” Sam replied, “but I’m not going to let you go rushing off to find her. You need to continue resting and getting better.”

Why was she so shocked by the fact that he’d already made up his mind about what was best for her? He might not look exactly like the twenty-year-old boy she’d loved, but he sure acted the same.

On the verge of telling him to mind his own business, she realized she’d forgotten a very important detail.

“She was here. At the hospital, to visit me. But I was sedated and didn’t see her. The nurses said she fell asleep in the waiting room.”

Not wanting to wait another second to file a missing person report with the police, she reached for her phone, but before she could finish dialing 911, Sam reached out and took it from her.

“There’s no point in calling the police.”

She glared at him. “Give me back my phone.”

Ignoring her demand, he laid out his reasons in a nauseatingly calm voice. “It hasn’t been twenty-four hours and she doesn’t exactly have the world’s best track record.”

Her rising indignation swiftly plummeted when she realized he was making sense.

All she’d ever wanted was a real family. Once upon a time, she’d actually thought it was possible to have that big happy family, to be Sam’s wife, to watch their children play together. Seeing Sam again only made the gaping hole in her heart feel bigger.

For the past ten years, she’d been just fine, but in only one hour he’d clouded her brain and heart and body with foolish desires and dreams. She couldn’t think straight around him. And she was going to need every last one of her mental resources to find April and bring her home again.

She had to be strong and send him away.

“Thanks for coming to see me, Sam. But I don’t want to take up any more of your time. You’ve been a great help, but I can take it from here.”

Like hell he was leaving her to head off on some wild-goose chase after her flighty sister. A woman like Dianna wouldn’t last a minute in the Colorado Rockies.

The trees and rivers and mountains looked beautiful, but looks were deceiving. You couldn’t make your way through miles of rough terrain if you were worried about breaking a nail or messing up your hair. Not if you wanted to come out of it alive.

Sam moved away from the bed and walked over to the window to get a grip on his frustration—and his lust. Being this close to Dianna was driving him insane. He could barely control himself around her. He felt like an animal about to bust out of its cage.

No question, it was long past time to leave. He’d simply come to the hospital to make sure she was all right. Instead, he’d walked into an episode of Without a Trace.

On top of everything else, Dianna had no business leaving the hospital yet. Even though she’d miraculously escaped injury in the car crash, she had to be exhausted by the entire ordeal.

At the same time, he understood exactly why she was so frantic. He’d be going just as crazy if he thought Connor was in trouble. Hell, he’d barely kept his shit together when his brother had ended up in the burn ward the previous summer.

When he’d first walked into Dianna’s room, she’d looked so strong, utterly impenetrable despite her harrowing accident. Now, he could see all of the cracks in her glossy veneer, everything from knuckle-cracking to the way she bit her lower lip when she was nervous.

Viewing her as a shiny celebrity had been so much easier than seeing her as a vulnerable woman who desperately needed his help and protection.

Yet again, just like that afternoon so many years ago when she’d told him she was pregnant, he was left with only one choice.

“I’m going to help you find her.”

Dianna looked at him in obvious confusion. “Why would you want to help me?”

Her question was a painful reminder of how he’d failed her ten years ago. He hadn’t been there when she’d miscarried. He hadn’t protected her or the baby well enough, and he’d never be able to make it up to her completely, but perhaps if he could be here for her now, he’d find a small measure of peace down the road.

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